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Hip Fractures

Symptoms, Causes and Types of hip fractures

The hip joint is designed for both mobility and stability which provides an important shock absorption function to the torso and upper body during standing and other weight bearing activities. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint which unites two bones. These two bones are the femur (thighbone) and the pelvis. Hip fractures, also known as a broken hip,  are serious injuries with complications that can be life threatening. Many hip fracture patients are over the age of 65. Their bones are weaker due to aging and osteoporosis.  For the elderly, a hip fracture can cause complications while recovering from the fractured hip.  Typically, hip fractures are treated surgically and many cases require physical therapy after surgery; which can take up to a year to heal.



What are the causes of hip fractures?


Sudden hard impact, such as a car crash can break a hip in younger patients. For older patients, over the age of 65 many hip fractures are caused by a fall. Severe osteoporotic bone can fracture simply by standing up and twisting the leg.


Symptoms of a hip fracture include:

  • Not being able to move after a fall
  • Severe pain in your hip or groin that does not go away
  • Not being able to put weight on the leg of the injured hip
  • Bruising and swelling in and around your hip area

What is a hip fracture and what are the different types of hip fractures?


Femoral Neck Fracture (Intracapsular)
Femoral neck fractures occur close to the neck and the head of the femur, and are generally within the capsule. The capsule is the soft-tissue envelope that contains the lubricating and nourishing fluid of the hip joint itself. If the head of the femur (ball) alone is broken, a surgeon will want to fix the cartilage on the ball that has been injured or displaced. Normally, the socket, or acetabulum, may also be broken. When a surgeon replaces the ball, or head of the femur he/she is performing a hemiarthroplasty. When a surgeon replaces both the ball and socket, (head of the femur and acetabulum) this is called a total hip replacement.

These injuries may be approached from either the front or back of the hip. In some cases, both approaches are required in order to clearly see and fix the fractured bone.

In 2005, about 293,000 Americans age 45 and over were admitted to hospitals with a fracture of the femoral neck 1. Osteoporosis was the underlying cause of most of these injuries.

Intertrochanteric Fracture

This fracture occurs between the neck of the femur and a lower bony prominence called the lesser trochanter. The lesser trochanter is an attachment point for one of the major muscles of the hip. The greater trochanter is the bump you can feel under the skin on the outside of the hip and acts as another muscle attachment point. Most intertrochanteric fractures are treated with either a compression hip screw or an intramedullary nail.


Subtrochanteric Fracture

This fracture occurs in the shaft of the femur. Subtrochanteric fractures are treated with either a long intramedullary nail together with a large lag screw or interlocking screw. In severe fracture cases, your surgeon may decide to use a plate to keep the fractured bone stable.


AAOS Patient Education

The information listed on this site is for informational and educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation. The information on this site does not replace your doctor's specific instructions.